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‘Modern Fantasy’ TPB (review)

Written by Rafer Roberts
Illustrated by Kristen Gudsnuk
Published by Dark Horse Comics


About 35 years ago, the major bookstore chains very tentatively began to carry graphic novels.

The earliest ones included Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest and Phil Foglio’s adaptations of Robert Asprin’s Myth novels. These were adult graphic novels that were drawn in an art style that was a bit lighthearted and kid-friendly, the theory being that both kids and adults would be attracted to them.

The problem was that no one ever knew where to shelve them. There weren’t enough different ones to give them their own section and they weren’t thick enough to face out anywhere so they generally ended up on a bottom shelf somewhere, usually in the science fiction section.

For years, no one bought them.

Cut to today, where you aren’t likely to find a bookstore in the US that doesn’t have a good-size graphic novel section. You’re also likely to find graphic novels in the history sections, the business sections, the biography sections, and, especially, in the kids’ sections.

Kids’ graphic novels are, in fact, extremely popular today and they’ve developed their own “look,” a simple, lighthearted, cartoony style with a hint of manga. You’ll find scores of very similar looking kids’ graphic novels in stores today, many of which win awards.

Dark Horse’s Modern Fantasy as that look…and that’s part of the problem. It is definitely NOT kid-friendly.

I guess Modern Fantasy is supposed to be a parody of that genre? Or maybe not. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be and I’m not sure it is, either. There are anthropomorphic animal characters, elves, monsters, and a young woman having an adventure.

There’s also a lot of explicit bloodletting and swearing and just general inappropriate stuff for kids, all drawn in the same kid-friendly style as scores of other graphic novels that ARE appropriate for kids.

Writer Rafer Roberts’ story is all ultra-modern with hip references that might date it quickly but it isn’t as exciting or as clever as it would like to be. Kristen Gudsnuk’s simplistic art varies. Some pages are okay but others have a rather scratchy, amateurish webcomic feel.

I realize this is one of those books that’s not made for me. I’m not the intended audience for Modern Fantasy. The problem is, I’m not sure who WOULD be, either.



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